Malaysia offers a great depth of impressive locations. It is best known for its beaches, rainforests, colonial architecture, modern buildings, and mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European cultural influences. Malaysia has a wide biodiversity of unique fauna including Asian elephants, Indochinese tigers, Borneo orangutangs and Sumatran rhinoceros.
Agricultural film locations include tea plantations, rubber tree plantations, palm oil plantations, and rice paddies. Industrial locations include electronics and automobile factories, as well as oil and gas facilities. Kuala Lumpur is a large financial hub.
Cost & Rebates
On the whole, Malaysia is a cost competitive country to shoot in. It is roughly around the same price point as Indonesia, which is less expensive than Singapore but more expensive than Thailand or the Philippines.
Malaysia offers a 30% tax rebate for qualifying foreign feature films, TV productions, documentaries, animations, post-production and TV commercials.
When To Shoot
Generally speaking Malaysia has a tropical climate with warm, humid days and cool nights. The west coast Malaysian peninsula has a dry season from November to April, light rains from April to August and a wet season from September to November. The east coast Malaysian peninsula has a dry season from April to October and a wet season from November to March. Malaysian Borneo receives high rainfall throughout the year with heaviest rains from October to March. Visibility for underwater photography is best during the dry season on the Malaysian peninsula and good all year round on Malaysian Borneo.
Malaysian film work permits must be applied for through a FINAS licenced company or approved government agency. Work permits can take up to 8 weeks to process but this can be expedited in some circumstances. Additional permits are required if filming in Malaysian Borneo. National Parks also require additional permits.
Crew travelling on Western passports that enter as tourists can stay visa-free for up to 90 days.
The eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak (on the island of Borneo) have special entry requirements.
Cast, Crew & Equipment
Malaysia has a small but good pool of local directors, directors of photography and stills photographers. Malaysian crews are hard working and experienced in servicing international productions. Department heads speak fluent English. Most projects do not require key crew to be brought in from abroad. If additional crew needs to be brought in this can be easily sourced in nearby Bangkok and Singapore. Talent day rates and buyouts are negotiable. The main looks in Malaysia are Malay, Chinese, East Indian and Pan-Asian. There is also a pool of younger Middle Easterners who are studying in Malaysia. Malaysian Borneo has several interesting indigenous tribes including Sea Gypsies. All other talent needs to be cast abroad.
Malaysia is Arri based. All the standard camera, lighting and grip equipment is available locally. Specialized equipment is easily brought in from Singapore or Bangkok. Singapore is connected to Malaysia by a land bridge and is a 4 hour drive to Kuala Lumpur.
For productions looking to bring in film equipment Malaysia is an ATA carnet country. Bringing in gear for non-carnet member countries is a quick and easy process once visiting crews have work permits.